Who doesn’t like a good cocktail? If the answer is you, stop reading this, hang your head in shame and resign yourself forever to the rusty taste of light beer. Shame on you. For the rest of the world, the epicurean indulgences of a delicious cocktail are the luxury to end all luxuries.
For this article though, ‘good’ doesn’t cut it. When you have cash burning a hole in your pocket and the yearning for a good martini, you don’t head to your local All Bar One. You go in search of the best. So here, for your delectation, are where you can find the best cocktails in the world.
Where to go: Let’s start with a heavy-hitter and really the most obvious. Every hotel bar has its own Martinis; some even do them near-flawlessly. Think of the American Bar at the Savoy or the Connaught Bar at the… Connaught. All of them, however, pale in comparison to Ground Zero, Ian Fleming’s own drinking hole: Duke’s Bar.
What to get: This is classic cocktail land, complete with low lighting and leather armchairs. Head bartender Alessandro Palazzi isn’t one to half-arse things and with the key Lillet Blanc no longer around, opt for his own signature version. Just be careful; two isn’t enough, three is too many.
Where to go: Sweet, cold, citrusy and seriously strong, the Daiquiri is a Cuban cocktail staple. Anything that was a favourite of the hard-drinking Hemmingway has to be good, right? That said, don’t bother making a trek to La Floridita; better bars have come and gone since that place was relevant. No, instead try the ode to Latin drinking that is BlackTail.
What to get: The Dead Rabbit team behind BlackTail hit the necessary nail on the head with their daiquiri, featuring their own blend of Cuban rums and sweet cane sugar. There’s a good number of flavours on offer – we’re partial to the pineapple – but the biggest choice is frozen or not. We say not.
Where to go: Given the drink’s Italian origins you might be expecting a Roman cocktail bar here, but no. Leave the Italians to their Super Tuscans and let the real experts handle mixing – experts like those at ultra-cool LA restaurant Hinoki & The Bird. After all, what’s the point of the perfect aperitif if not to complement an equally perfect meal?
What to get: Whereas the cocktail can sometimes be a bit one-dimensional, the Hinoki Negroni leans on the in-house expertise lifted from the renowned Milk & Honey to create a less intensely bitter, far more nuanced Negroni. Switching the Campari for sweeter Salers and a grapefruit twist, the balance suits the intensely dry Islay gin to a slightly-slurred ‘t’.
The Whisky Sour
Where to go: Manhattan, obviously – the bar, not the US destination. Get your slice of New York from this almighty Singaporean haven to classic cocktails. Granted you’d assume you were in a speakeasy on the Lower East Side, but that’s no bad thing. There are plenty of other places to get something laced with laksa… if you insist.
What to get: Ok, this is getting confusing but the one to get is the New York Sour. This is less a pure citrus hit, more like a bourbon barrel rolling through a lemon grove littered with patches of lavender. Bourbon, port, maple syrup, plum bitters and fresh lemon, plus the prerequisite egg white… there’s a lot going on and all of it is good.
The Champagne Cocktail
Where to go: What better ode to decadence than this? Now, there is actually an officially-recognised template for a Champagne cocktail but… well, it’s awful. Champagne, usually old, with a sugar cube and some bitters doesn’t make for an exciting drink. Instead, we’ve opted for something that illustrates pure, unadulterated decadence which, of course, means heading to The Ritz.
What to get: The Rivoli 110. It’s not a classic Champagne cocktail, but it’s just as sweet, a whole lot stronger and… gold. A heady mix of gold-infused vodka (because of course), hints of orange from a measure of Grand Marnier and some intensely-sweet peach liqueur, it’s a celebration in a glass. It’s pricey, sure, but then this is The Ritz; you can’t expect anything else.
The Oracle Time Old Fashioned
There are so many different variations of the Old Fashioned around, each within a drop of bitters of each other, that rather than narrow it down we’ll cut to the chase and just tell you how we make ours.
First is the bourbon and the golden rule: never use any whisky you’d never drink straight. We’re going to add syrup anyway so you don’t actually want something too sweet either. Elijah Craig 12 Year Old is perfect: it’s sweet, it’s savoury and it’s spicy in equal measure.
Because nobody has time to wait for sugar to dissolve, we tend to use syrup instead, infused with orange for a stronger flavour. It adds a little more citrus to the classic Angostura bitters. Don’t worry about being fancy; leave that for the bartender. Just splash the bourbon over ice, add three dashes of Angostura bitters and the lemon sugar syrup to taste. We go for one, but try two if you have a sweet tooth. Add an orange wedge and there you go. Our perfect Old Fashioned.
The best thing about an Old Fashioned? It doesn’t need a cocktail shaker. The fewer steps between a man and his drink the better, in our opinion. Still, presentation counts for a lot and the perfect tipple deserves the perfect crystal. With its gilded leaf and scrollwork and Rococo style, the Acanthus collection of fine lead crystal from De Lamerie adds a necessary touch of grandeur to the archetypal cocktail. It’s enough to put the likes of the Connaught and American Bar to shame; delamerie.com; POA